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Homeless Youth in California Schools

Information, resources, and educational outcomes for homeless youth.

Homeless youth and students are a vulnerable population making up three percent of California’s students (2020–21 Census data). This page contains the state level educational outcomes and enrollment data for the homeless youth population. Resources and frequently asked questions are also available to support local educational agencies, homeless liaisons, and homeless student advocates.

Homeless Education's Laws and Definitions

This tab provides information about the McKinney-Vento Act as well as terms related to the homeless student group population specific to the California Department of Education (CDE). For more information and resources for homeless children and youth, visit the CDE Homeless Education web page.

McKinney-Vento Law

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (McKinney-Vento Act External link opens in new window or tab.) (42 U.S.C. § 11431-11435) is federal legislation that ensures the educational rights and protections of children and youth experiencing homelessness. It requires all local educational agencies (LEAs) to ensure that homeless students have access to the same free, appropriate public education, including public preschools, as provided to other children and youth. The McKinney-Vento Act defines LEAs as public school districts, direct-funded and locally funded charter schools, and county offices of education.

Definitions of Homelessness

The McKinney-Vento Act defines homeless children and youth as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This definition also includes:

  • Children and youth who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; or are abandoned in hospitals;

  • Children and youth who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings; 

  • Children and youth who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings;

  • Migratory children who qualify as homeless for the purposes of this subtitle because the children are living in circumstances described in clauses (i) through (iii)

Related Definitions

California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS)

CALPADS is a student-level data system that includes student demographics, course data, discipline, assessments, staff assignments, and other data for state and federal reporting. For more information visit the CALPADS web page.

California School Dashboard (Dashboard)

The Dashboard External link opens in new window or tab. contains reports that display the performance of local educational agencies (LEAs), schools, and student groups on a set of state and local measures to assist in identifying strengths, challenges, and areas in need of improvement.

Census Day

Census Day is the first Wednesday in October, also known as Information Day when annual enrollment data are submitted by LEAs to the CDE through CALPADS.

Consolidated Application and Reporting System (CARS)

CARS is a data collection system to apply for Categorical Program Funding and to report on the use of those funds. For more information visit the CARS web page.

Cumulative Enrollment

The cumulative enrollment data includes an unduplicated count of all students who had a primary or short-term enrollment for at least one day at any time within the academic school year (July 1 to June 30).

Enroll and Enrollment

Enroll and enrollment means a student is signed up to attend classes and participate fully in school activities.

Immediate Enrollment

Immediate Enrollment is when a homeless student is entitled to immediately enroll in any public school that students in the same area are eligible to attend; even if: students have missed application or enrollment deadlines during any period of homelessness or students do not have required documents, such as school records, records of immunization and other required health records, proof of residency, guardianship, or other documents.

Homeless Youth

Homeless youth is defined as children and youth who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.

Housing Type

  • Hotels/Motels means living in a hotel or motel due to not having a fixed, permanent residence.

  • Temporarily Doubled-Up means living with relatives or friends, due to economic hardship (including unaccompanied youth and runaways).

  • Temporary Shelters means living in transitional housing.

  • Temporarily Unsheltered* means living in abandoned buildings, campgrounds, vehicles, trailer parks, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailers, bus and train stations, or is abandoned in the hospital.

    • *Unsheltered is also defined as substandard or inadequate housing and is judged on a case-by-case basis. A rule of thumb would be to see the dwelling as comparable to an automobile, in that it shelters, yet it is not adequate housing.

Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)

The LCFF establishes uniform grade span grants in place of the myriad of previously existing K–12 funding streams, including revenue limits, general-purpose block grants, and most state categorical programs (see School District and Charter School LCFF Entitlement). For county offices of education (COEs), the LCFF establishes funding for oversight activities and instructional programs (see County Office of Education LCFF Entitlement).

Reporting Requirements

All LEAs are required to report the number of homeless students enrolled during a school year through CALPADS and the Annual Homeless Survey.

Residence Type

  • Fixed residence is one that is stationary, permanent, and not subject to change.

  • Regular residence is one that is used on a normal, standard, and consistent basis.

  • Adequate residence is one that is sufficient for meeting both the physical and psychological needs typically met in home environments.

School of Origin

School of origin is defined as the school that a child or youth attended when permanently housed, the school in which the child or youth was last enrolled when they became homeless, or a school that the child or youth has had some sort of connection to within the last 15 months.

School Stability

School stability measures whether a student is enrolled in the same school for an entire school year without a break in enrollment.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth is defined as a youth that is not in the physical custody of their parent or guardian and meets the definition of homelessness, as stated above.

Quick Facts Data

This tab provides quick facts about homeless students. Please visit the Homeless Children and Youth Data Reports web page to access static data reports specifically for homeless youth.

Multi-Year Statewide Homeless Student Enrollment

Graph of the multi-year statewide homeless student enrollment.

Multi-Year Statewide Homeless Student Enrollment

Academic Year Total Homeless Enrollment
2017–18 204,085
2018–19 207,677
2019–20 194,709
2020–21 183,312
2021–22 171,714

Data Source: Annual census day enrollment which consists of the number of students enrolled on the first Wednesday in October.

Homeless Student Data Quick Facts

The following data quick facts was sourced from DataQuest unless otherwise mentioned.

Enrollment

  • According to the U.S. Department of Education in the 2019–20 school year, 19 percent of all children experiencing homelessness in the U.S. were in California.
  • According to cumulative enrollment data, in the 2020–21 school year, 3.8 percent of California’s students experienced homelessness.
  • There was a 6.4 percent decrease in homeless student annual enrollment from the 2020–21 to 2021–22 school year.

Enrollment by Nighttime Residence*

  • The percentage of homeless children and youth enrolled in public schools by primary nighttime residence for the 2019–20 school year: 85.4 percent Doubled-up, 5.9 percent Hotels and Hotels, 5.2 percent Shelters/Transitional Housing, and 3.5 percent Unsheltered.
    *Source: California’s National Center for Homeless EducationExternal link opens in new window or tab. State level data web page, which is the technical assistance center for the U.S. Department of Education.

Enrollment by Race and Ethnicity

  • Hispanic or Latino students make up 55 percent of the total statewide enrollment but make up 74 percent of homeless students.
  • White students make up 22 percent of statewide enrollment but make up 9.8 percent of homeless students.
  • African American students make up 5 percent of statewide enrollment but make up 7.3 percent of homeless students.
  • Asian students make up 10 percent of statewide enrollment but make up 2.8 percent of homeless students.

Stability

  • The 2020–21 Stability Rate for homeless students increased 5.8 percent from 2019–20. Despite the decrease in enrollment in 2020-21 there were16,902 more homeless students enrolled in one school for a full year of learning compared to 2019–20.

Absenteeism

  • The Non-homeless Chronic Absenteeism Rate for the 2020–21 school year was 13.7 percent, a 15.8 percent difference between homeless and non-homeless students.
  • The average number of days absent for homeless students increased 7.9 days from the 2018–19 school year.

Four-Year Cohort Graduation and Dropout Rates

  • The 2020–21 four-year cohort graduation rate for homeless students decreased 2.2 percent from the 2019–20 school year.
  • The 2020–21 homeless four-year cohort dropout rate increased 1.4 percent from 2019–20.

State Level Educational Outcomes of Homeless Students

This tab provides state level educational outcomes for homeless students, which are published annually on DataQuest. DataQuest is the California Department of Education’s online, public reporting system that provides reports about California’s schools and school districts. To find out how to access reports specifically for homeless youth, visit the Homeless Children and Youth Data web page.

For a presentation with information regarding the educational outcomes for homeless children and youth during the 2019–20 school year, please visit the Statewide Educational Homeless Data web page.

Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, data cannot be reported for the 2019–20 school year for these data sets: English Language Proficiency and Mathematics Academic Indicators, and Chronic Absenteeism Rate. The most recent data for these topics is provided below. For more information on the available data for the 2019–20 school year, please visit the COVID-19 and Data Reporting web page.

2020-21 Percent of Students Chronically Absent

The graph below displays the 2020–21 school year chronic absence rates for non-homeless and homeless students. The chronic absence rate is calculated as the percent of students who miss ten percent or more of the days they are expected to attend.

Image of graph displaying chronically absent.


2020–21 Suspension Rate

The graph below displays the 2020–21 school year suspension rates for non-homeless and homeless students. Suspension rate is calculated as the percent of all students who were suspended one or more times during the school year for an in-school or out-of-school suspension.

Image of a graph displaying the suspension rate

2020–21 Stability Report

The graph below displays the 2020–21 Stability Rate The graph below displays the 2020–21 Stability Rate for homeless and non-homeless students. Stability rate is calculated as the percent of the total number of students in the stability count divided by the total adjusted cumulative enrollment at a selected entity.

Graph displaying stability rate

2020–21 Four-Year Cohort Graduation Rate

The graph below displays the 2020–21 school year four-year cohort graduation rates for non-homeless and homeless students. The four-year cohort graduation rate is calculated as the percent of students who graduate high school within four years from the time they enter ninth grade with a traditional high school diploma.

Image of a graph displaying cohort grad rate.

2020–21 Four-Year Cohort Dropout Rate

The graph below displays the 2020–21 school year four-year dropout rates for non-homeless and homeless students. The four-year cohort dropout rate is calculated as the percent of cohort students who (1) do not graduate with a regular high school diploma, (2) do not otherwise complete high school, or (3) are not still enrolled as a “fifth year senior” are considered dropouts.

Graph displaying dropout rate

State Level Accountability for Homeless Youth

This tab provides the latest statewide accountability indicators for homeless youth. Please visit COVID-19 Frequently Asked Accountability Questions web page to access frequently asked accountability questions related to relevant state legislation and the approved federal waiver under the Elementary and Secondary Elementary Education Act.

image of Califoria School Dashboard Logo

The California School Dashboard (Dashboard) is California's accountability system based on multiple measures that assess how local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools are meeting the needs of their students.

The 2020-21 College/Career Measures and 2020-21 Graduation Rate Additional Reports can be found on the California School Dashboard Additional Reports External link opens in new window or tab. web page.

For more information, resources, and guidance for the Dashboard and System of Support, please visit the California School Dashboard and System of Support web page.

Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)

The LCFF web page contains the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) required goals list that fundamentally changed how all local educational agencies (LEAs) in the state are funded, how they are measured for results, and the services and supports they receive to allow all students to succeed to their greatest potential.

These files indicate the LEAs that are required to address specific goals in their LCAP for students experiencing homelessness.

LCAP Required Goals Lists

LEAs required to include a goal in the 2022–23 LCAP based on student group performance (XLSX)
LEAs required to include a goal in the 2022–23 LCAP based on school performance (XLSX)

Resources

This tab provides resources specific to the needs and outcomes of homeless children and youth.

Educational Support Services

Data

  • Homeless Children and Youth Data
    This page provides access to information and DataQuest reports for California's homeless children and youth.

  • Accessing Educational Data
    This page provides access to data collected by the California Department of Education (CDE), including enrollment data, demographic and student group data, staff data, school and district accountability, statewide assessment results, and directory information.

  • Homeless Data Collection Timeline
    The page provides data collection timelines for California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CAPLADS) and Consolidated Application and Reporting System (CARS).

  • Data Crosswalk for the California School Dashboard and DataQuest (PDF)
    This Data Crosswalk document provides a short overview of the differences in the way that data are produced for DataQuest and the California School Dashboard.

External Websites

Frequently Asked Questions

The sections below address the most commonly asked questions about homeless student data.

Identification | Data Collection | Data Certification

Identification

How do I determine if a student is Homeless?

A student is determined homeless if they lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. Examples of homelessness include children and youth living in:

  • Shared housing due to economic hardship, loss of housing, or natural disasters
  • Motels or hotels
  • Public or private places not designed for sleeping
  • Trailer parks or campgrounds
  • Cars, parks, and abandoned buildings
  • Shelters
  • Emergency or transitional shelter
If a student becomes permanently housed are they still counted in cumulative count?

Yes. If a student was homeless at any time between July 30 to June 1, they will still be considered homeless.

How does identification affect my funding?

Under the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), any student identified for free or reduced-price meals (FRPM) are included in the schools’ socioeconomically disadvantaged accountability subgroup. Homeless students automatically qualify for FRPM, and therefore, generate LCFF funds for local educational agencies (LEAs). In addition, homeless students are automatically eligible for Title I services, regardless of their current academic performance.

What are some identification strategies?
  • Ensure every student who enrolls fills out the School Housing Questionnaire(PDF).
  • Ensure homeless student data is properly entered in the Student Information System (SIS) and California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) 5.4/ 5.5.
  • Ensure all school faculty and personnel are trained to identify when a student is homeless.
  • Attend Identification webinars offered by California Department of Education (CDE) and local educational agencies (LEA's).
  • Identifying Children and Youth in Homeless Situations(PDF)
  • This National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) brief summarizes the key provisions of the McKinney-Vento Act related to the identification of children and youth experiencing homelessness, and provides an overview of implementation strategies at the state and local level.
Do LEAs need to verify homelessness every year?

Yes. Homelessness should be verified at the beginning and at the end of each school year to ensure students are appropriately counted for Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) purposes. If a student is still homeless, no change is necessary; however, if a student is no longer homeless, be sure to populate the program end date to prevent students from inaccurately being reported as homeless.

What is the Housing Questionnaire and how do I complete it?

The California Department of Education (CDE) developed a sample Housing Questionnaire and it is a highly recommended best practice to assist local educational agencies (LEAs) with the identification of homeless children and youth. The Education for Homeless Children and Youth program states that all LEAs and their homeless liaisons must ensure that homeless children and youth are identified by school personnel through outreach and coordination with other agencies.

LEAs are defined as county offices of education (COEs), school districts, and charter schools.
LEAs need to take a proactive approach to identify homeless children and youth. It is the first step to connecting these students and their families with information, resources, and supports necessary to ensure that they have equal access to the same free, appropriate public education, including public preschool education, as is provided to other children and youth.

You can access the Housing Questionnaire sample as well as guidance on completing it on the CDE’s Resources for Homeless Children and Youth website.

Data Collection

How often should the homeless data be updated in California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS)?

CALPADS needs to be updated on Census Day (First Wednesday in October) and at least once in the academic year (if the student was not homeless on Census Day, but was homeless sometime in the academic year). Although not required, local education agency (LEAs) are strongly encouraged to regularly update data in CALPADS throughout the academic year to ensure youth are correctly identified as homeless.

When are homeless data collected in CALPADS?

Homeless data are collected continually throughout the school year and are certified twice a year: once during Fall 1 certification window and once during the End of Year 3 (EOY3) certification window. local education agency (LEAs) are strongly encouraged to regularly update data in CALPADS throughout the academic year to ensure youth are correctly identified as homeless. Refer to the CALPADS Calendar for submission windows and certification deadlines.

What should I do with preschool 0-5 age data?

Local education agency (LEAs) should submit a homeless program record for infant, toddler, and pre-K children who are enrolled in CALPADS and who are homeless, as these students are included in all homeless reports in CALPADS. For more information refer to the CALPADS Data Guide(DOCX; Dated 14-Feb-2020).

What is the difference between CALPADS and Consolidated Application and Reporting System CARS?

The CARS is a data collection system to apply for Categorical Program Funding and to report on the use of those funds. CALPADS collects homeless enrollment information. CALPADS is a data reporting system through which LEAs report specific data used to determine Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) funding allocations and to calculate educational outcomes.

What are the typical reporting categories in CALPADS for homeless youth?

Temporary Doubled Up, Temporary motel/Hotel, Temporary Sheltered, Temporary Unsheltered. For more details, please see the Definitions section.

What is the statewide average number of homeless students enrolled in school?

There is no statewide average.

Data Certification

When is California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) data certified?

Homeless student data are certified two times a year in CALPADS. The Fall 1 submission is certified in late January and early February and End of Year 3 (EOY 3) submission is certified in late August.
In order to certify data in CALPADS, authorized district or charter school personnel are required to review the accuracy of all data associated with the applicable CALPADS submission. CALPADS certification is a two-step process with Level-2 certification reserved. Refer to the CALPADS Calendar for the submission windows and certification deadlines.

When is Consolidated Application and Reporting System (CARS) data certified?

CARS Winter and Spring certification dates can be found here CARS Calendar Release Schedule.

What is the difference between California School Dashboard and DataQuest?

The California School DashboardExternal link opens in new window or tab. (Dashboard) provides data on school and district progress so they can participate in decisions to improve student learning. DataQuest provide data and statistics about California’s K–12 public educational system that supports a wide variety of informational, research, and policy needs. Summary and detailed data reports are available for multiple subject areas at the school, district, county, and state levels.
For more information on the differences between the California School Dashboard and DataQuest please visit Data Crosswalk for the California School Dashboard and DataQuest(PDF).

What is the difference between Cumulative data and Census data?

Cumulative enrollment data includes an unduplicated count of all students who had a primary or short-term enrollment for at least one day anytime within the school year (July 1 to June 30). Cumulative enrollment data can be found on California Department of Edcation's (CDE's) Cumulative Enrollment Data website. Annual enrollment (Census Day enrollment) consists of the number of students enrolled on Census Day (the first Wednesday in October). Census Day enrollment data can be found on CDE's Annual Enrollment website.

How can counties access CALPADS 5.4 and 5.5 reports?

In order to access and review C/A Report 5.4, a CALPADS user must have the County role added to their CALPADS account. For more information access CALPADS Update Flash #182.

Questions: Data Reporting Office | dro@cde.ca.gov | 916-327-0219 
Last Reviewed: Thursday, June 16, 2022
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